Last week, Nintendo decided to take away monetization of videos such as reviews, Let’s Plays and reviews from their fans. While copyright law is very complex when it comes to fair use and making derivative works, attacking a fandom by taking down Youtube channels, banning fanart and sending cease and deist letters to take down fanmade games can hurt their goodwill and reputation.
While we have seen this with video games with Sega taking down Shining Force videos last year and Husbro putting an end to a fan-made My Little Pony fighting game early this year, what about Anime? Yes, it exists and there are very negative implications that can occur from fan backlash. I will focus on several reasons why companies should not attack the fans for making fan generated content and instead, should support them. (Image Source)
With the Internet, we use new media to get information about a particular game or something on a blog, audio podcast, social networking or in a Youtube video compared to reading a review on sites like IGN. Because of this, we can make informed decisions on whether or not someone should buy a particular game, Anime DVDs, Anime Music CDs, etc. This has been particularly useful for games since someone can see how the game plays in someone’s Let’s Play before buying it. You will probably do the same with Anime since you can read other people’s opinions about a particular show before buying the Blu-ray/DVD or watch it. Because of this, I feel that companies should support fan driven reviews and content since it’s basically free advertising for their work. Since Anime is a pretty obscure medium outside the fandom, Anime companies basically need its overseas fans more than we do. However, not all companies realize this and decide do take it down anyways.
On the other hand, there have been some instances where companies sent cease and desist letters in some instances. While we have heard several instances where Animation studios and licensing companies took down fansubs because of it’s legality issues, there are some silly reasons where they sent a cease and desist letters for using screen shots of the video. One of these instances happened in 2009 when Lantis sent a letter to bloggers prohibiting bloggers from using screencaps for any use. They think that people won’t buy the DVDs because a person can simply read a blog post filled with screenshots. From this, I feel that they don’t know the repercussions behind their actions even if screenshots are fair use and used to help the reader understand the content. Just think about it, what if Toei Animation decided to send takedown letters for people blogging about One Piece. People are going to stop blogging about it and write about a different series. As a result, it will hurt sales for their DVDs and related merchandise. Basically, it’s a lose-lose situation for both the fans and the companies who produce Anime as there will be less reviews and fan content.
As for fan-generated content, it gets hazier. While bans on fan works are rare in Japan, there have been some instances where companies cracked down on fan-generated content. For instance, Kadokawa in 2008 requested that a doujin group take down a Haruhi Suzumiya fan-made fighting game. Of course it doesn’t stop here as Kodansha tried to deter people from using their characters from the fan work. I feel that attacking fan-generated content can be just as harmful as taking down reviews as it can destroy the entire fandom for a certain series. Fan content in general is good for a franchise as fans can make something creative like a fighting game or a piece of fanart to show their passion towards it. Basically, this type of content can make someone become interested in the source material. If you take that away, it will be bad for the creator, the animation studios who make the shows and the distribution companies because nobody will buy his/her products from the backlash. However, I can understand Anime Music Video takedowns since companies don’t want people distributing their music for free.
In the end, I think it’s wrong for companies to attack the fans in order to take down content since fans gives free marketing their product through fan works. While there should be a line drawn in regards to Fansubs and AMVs, for other content, studios, licensing companies, etc. should take advantage of fan-generated content. Let’s face it, hyping up a product costs a lot of money and most Anime distribution companies like Funimation and Sentai Filmworks aren’t willing to do this. Because of this, companies need to tolerate fan-generated content and listen to its fans so people will continue to support their products.
With that, here are some things to think about: Do you think that the Anime Industry should attack its fans by removing their content or support them?
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6 Comments… read them or add your own.
The reason why anime and most of related media (such as anime music, figures, manga etc.) are still an obscure thing to the world is the unbelievable lack of care and interest from big Japanese companies to any other country besides their own. Japan is unfortunately still a pretty closed-up place, especially regarding entertainment, so the reactions such as taking down all related content can be viewed as very immature and non-proficient, since it would actually bring them profit (in moderation, of course). What fans should do is show them even more that they actually do exist and do matter, so the copyright laws would get less and less strict.
I’m thinking of doing the same kind of post regarding anime music – it is a big problem in our fandom as well.
Considering the incident where Midori shut off their site back in 2010 for foreigners because of the whole Rapelay incident pretty much make me agree that Japan is still closed when it comes to entertainment. While Anime is still a niche medium in the west, I think they are taking notice of the fan base as releases become more accessible and the staff such as directors, writers and voice actors and actresses coming to conventions. Still, I think the copyright thing has to do with them not understanding how it works. Not only that, the copyright laws are outdated in the age of social networking and Youtube videos. I think it needs to be adjusted so that people can make derivative works or use a screenshot in a review without getting slapped with a copyright claim.
It’s fine, really. If they don’t want fans, they can shut them down until they lose them all. It’s a blatantly silly thing 99.99% of the time, because fan support is almost always obviously non-canon, non-profit, and simply exists to extend the appeal of a series to other fans (and maybe draw in new ones). It’s free publicity, rarely damaging, and is basically your prospective market telling you they want more. To simply shut them down is to basically say “we don’t want fans, we just want consumers.” Or, as many fans will hear it: “please go support something else.”
I agree for the most part as it shows that most companies don’t understand how the internet work. Of course, Sega pulled this crap last year as mentioned when they took down Shining Force videos and as a result, their reputation got damaged, especially when they aren’t doing so well. Still, I think it also have to do with the outdated business models with the entertainment industry as they think Piracy equals loss sales. Let’s take video games for an example, companies like EA gone so far to put Always online DRM, which only hurts the customers who can’t play the game while the pirates don’t care. I think the same can happen if companies don’t understand that fans are giving them free marketing and attack them. Everyone loses at the end as nobody will buy their products and they lose profit. But the overarching picture is that copyright needs to be reformed so companies can’t abuse the heck out of it and have it last 100 years before it goes to the public domain.
Companies should know that fans who make AMVs, LPs or show their shows online are doing it both for fun and helping spread the word about the show or game they like so others will support the product. This whole paranoia over internet pirates is silly. People with common sense should know that if they continue pirating stuff instead of buying them legit, the company will stop making the products. I am now savvy when it comes to total sales but since when has pirating greatly damaged overall sales or lead to financial failures? If piracy were really that bad, several gaming and anime companies would be bankrupt by now. Lastly, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil 6 being “failures” is the fault of Capcom and Square-Enix and their fictional sales expectations for both games. Seriously, 6 million copies? Is 3.4 million not good enough for either of you?
Companies does the silliest things, but I think they should take advantage of free marketing from fans rather than crack them down as you don’t have to go through the effort making an advertising. Not only that, putting strict DRM thinking that you will stop piracy is silly, it will drive customers away. At least Steam is tolerable form of DRM and not intrusive compared to Always on DRM as seen with the latest Simcity and Diablo III.
While buying the DVDs is one way to support the companies, Music CDs, figurines, other merchandise will also work as well..